This Open wasn’t a good year for competitive finals, but it was a good year for competitive matches overall: Venus-Kvitova, Sloane-Venus, Federer-Youzhny, Del Potro-Federer, Anderson-Querrey, Monfils-Young, Vandeweghe-Radwanska, Keys-Svitolina, Sharapova-Halep, Sevastova-Sharapova, Sloane-Sevastova, Kanepi-Osaka, Coric-Zverev and Pliskova-Zhang were all dramatic and well-played. Also hidden away on a side court, destined only to be remembered by the record books and by those who actually played it and saw it, was the longest women’s match in US Open history, between Shelby Rogers and Daria Gavrilova.
Most epic of all was a contest that appeared at first to be an epic dud: Juan Martin del Potro’s 1-6, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 win over Dominic Thiem in the fourth round not only had the year’s best scoreline, but featured the tournament’s most death-defying high-wire act of a comeback by the winner. Delpo, in another of this Open’s returns to glory, showed us again why he’s a star.
In 2016, the Argentine and the Austrian had also met in the fourth round; the match, in which Thiem was forced to retire, had been played in Ashe. This year it was squeezed into the Grandstand, and the smaller venue made all the difference. Around the grounds, and even inside Ashe Stadium, you could hear the songs and chants of “Olé” rising out of that jammed arena. When a flu-ridden Delpo trudged listlessly through the first two sets, the fans stayed and tried to will him into it. As it does on occasion, Flushing Meadows had turned into Little Buenos Aires.
“It was very important,” Delpo said of the support, “because I was trying to retire the match in the second set. Then I saw the crowd waiting for more tennis, waiting for my good forehands, good serves. I took all that energy to change in a good way and think about fight and not retire.”